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Google’s Pixel smartphone, the first built completely in-house, debuted recently to rave reviews. Critics from all quarters hailed its top-notch performance, vibrant QHD AMOLED display, sleek design, and high performance camera, among other things, inviting comparisons to the iPhone 7 and iPhone 7 Plus. Google could not have asked for a better reception, given that it priced the phones similarly to Apple’s flagships. The Pixel phones start out at $649 for the 32GB model and top out at $869 for the 128GB XL model.
Some reviewers have taken to calling it the best Android smartphone on the market, implying that it has eclipsed Samsung Galaxy S7. The Galaxy Note 7 as far as all are concerned, removed itself from contention when it decided to blow up repeatedly and violently. The consensus seems to be that Google’s debut has gone great, positioning the company to be a potential competitor to Apple and Samsung in the high-end smartphone market.
Is the Pixel an iPhone killer? In short, no. The Pixel phone is only available on Verizon, lacks Apple’s global brand recognition in the smartphone market, and, perplexingly, doesn’t come with water-resistance. But it can hold its own and has the potential to carve out a niche for itself, especially among Android users. And according to early reviews, it matches or outperforms the newest iPhones in a few key areas– and comes with a 3.5mm audio jack to boot.
The 12.3 MP camera, which you can easily access by double-pressing the home button, is stellar. While it lacks the optical image stabilization and the Portrait mode of the iPhone 7 Plus, the Pixel XL is great with exposure shifting and consistently yields sharp, vibrant photos, even in low-light settings. Not to mention the Pixel also captures great audio when recording video. All in all, however, neither camera comes out decisively on top, and the consensus is that both phones should please avid shutterbugs.
The Pixel phone distinguishes itself with its built-in Google Assistant AI. As we discussed earlier, Google Assistant trounces Siri because it’s simply more intelligent. Google Assistant’s language comprehension abilities allow you to carry on more natural conversations with it (via text or voice) and even ask follow-up questions, which other AIs can’t handle yet. For instance, you can ask Google Assistant, “who is the president of the US?” and follow up with “how old is he?” and get the correct answer to both questions, even if you don’t specify who the “he” is. That being said, all AI assistants are still in relatively early stages of development, and Google Assistant fumbles its fair share of queries, though that should improve with time.
Yet the Pixel also pales in comparison to the iPhone in several important ways. It features the conservative, minimalist design that’s standard on high-end smartphones, but users have complained that it wears quite easily, besides which, it’s nowhere near as clean and sleek as the iPhone. The Pixel comes with a thick forehead and chin bezel, and is slightly chunkier overall. If aesthetics are your thing, stick with Apple’s Jet Black iPhone 7 Plus. The Pixel also fails to outpace the iPhone 7 in terms of battery life, though it delivers a solid 12 hours on average.
All in all, Apple lovers have plenty of reasons to remain loyal to the excellent iOS ecosystem, iMessage, and all the other trimmings that make owning an iPhone a fine experience. And, due to iPhone’s excellent resale value, when you’re ready to upgrade in 2017, you’ll be able to barter your iPhone 7 much more easily than the Pixel.